July 22 Update: To justify the $1 sale of the Northgate property to Columbia Basin College the city ignored the county’s $1,776,730 accessed value for the property and only mentioned the $250,000 land value and the demolition estimate of $348.000.
The council usually stays mum during and after the public comment period. Tonight was different. After being pummeled again by residents for dragging out negotiations with the utility linesmen, Mayor Ryan Lukson responded that a proposal had been offered to the union on July 8 but there had been no response.
According to Lukson, the city offered the linesmen, represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), a 2.5 percent salary increase in 2021; a 3 percent increase in 2022; and a 3 percent increase in 2023. He said the city wanted to fairly compensate employees and was bargaining in good faith to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement.
One dollar property sale
Councilmember Marianne Boring had the $1.00 sale of the city’s 29,800 sq. ft. property at 840 Northgate to Columbia Basin College (CBC) pulled from the consent calendar for discussion. Boring said that she felt like the decision to give the property away should be paused and other city uses for it considered.
The land is valued at $250,000, but the building on it is 81 years old and in need of major exterior and interior renovations, including minor asbestos removal. The Department of Energy gave the property to the city with the condition that it only be used for public, non-commercial use.
Boring referenced State vs. Blake, a Washington State Supreme Court ruling, which has turned drug enforcement into a public health issue rather than criminal justice issue. Police are required to direct people with drug problems to treatment and recovery centers rather than arrest them.
The property, which is located near resources like the Ben Franklin Transit transfer station, would be ideal for that, she said.
Boring also mention the need for a homeless shelter.
Lukson agreed with Boring on the need for a shelter because, he said, the courts had ruled that people sleeping on public property could not be removed if there was no shelter for them to use.
Lukson and four other councilmembers present (Councilmember Bob Thompson was absent) wanted to see CBC expand in Richland and voted to approve the sale. Each one of them felt that the services Boring discussed could be provided elsewhere. Boring voted no to the sale.
Christensen Complains about voting
The majority of council business is listed on the consent calendar that receives no discussion and one vote. A councilmember can ask to have an item pulled for discussion and a separate vote as Boring did with the one-dollar sale.
Christensen complained that approval for the police to accept a $7968 grant should have been on the consent agenda. Apparently saying “aye” more than once a night is a problem for him.
Lukson explained that since he recused himself because he worked with the grant program in his position at the Benton County prosecutor’s office, the vote wouldn’t be unanimous and thus had to come off of the consent calendar.
The meeting ended with Lukson urging everyone to be vaccinated so the city could avoid another shutdown.